It's Gestalt, innit?

Neil McCormick at the Telegraph has an interesting piece today about the absudity of pie-slicing classic albums that were meant to be heard in their entirety; citing Abbey Road and Ziggy Stardust as two examples of albums that were concieved as a whole.

I listened to Abbey Road just the other day and it struck me was the use of leitmotiv, something usually reserved for symphonic works such as those of Wagner or Strauss. Beatles later work is intertextual (the Walrus was Paul). Cutting albums to pieces can even destroy the lyrical sense if there is one. Even The White Album has a sense of journey about it and you always know, because it is burned into your receptors, which track is coming next.

good brushwork but no cigar
It is therefore artistic sabotage to encourage punters to download individual tracks as MP3s because it is making an unintended, alternative artistic statement and it changes the way the pieces are perceived. You have to listen to Classic FM to underline the point - they play the "best" bits over and over and over again. You feel as if you are trapped in a world of hold music.

Some albums deserve listed status. That is, nobody should be allowed to bugger them up.
I nominate Aqualung, by Jethro Tull. Now, I know Ian Anderson tells everybody that it is not a concept album, but as a whole it tells a story from different points of view. It too has a narrative and the songs are intertextual. Like all albums that should be on the proteceted list, it is part of an experience, part of wine with friends and girls or boys you knew at the time.

Nominations please, for albums that should have grade one listed status.


Smoking Hot said...

The Wall ... Pink Floyd

Dark Side of the Moon ... Pink Floyd

Tommy ... The Who

Argus ... Wishbone Ash

A friend gave me a copy of The White Album as l'd lost mine. Turned out he'd downloaded it. lt had no track listings! ... it sounded ridiculous. l was so annoyed l smashed it and threw it.

Got a second hand cd of the album from for 1.99 :)

Jim Baxter said...

'Rain Dogs', Tom Waits.

'New Boots and Panties', Ian Dury.

'Broken English', Marianne Faithfull.

Every album Randy Newman has ever done or will do

Richard said...

Dark Side of the Moon, definitely. I would add Tales From Topographic Oceans and The Ladder, by Yes. I suppose Tubular Bells 1, 2 and 3 are pretty obvious candidates, too.

Foxy Brown said...

'Hounds of Love' Kate Bush.

Thud said...

The joy of hearing a new album for the first time is for many a lost pleasure. Purchasing an album for me when young was quite an event and financial commitment, now music is as disposable as any other cheapened commodity that litter our lives.

Wrinkled Weasel said...

Welcome to the blog Thud. I agree. Buying an album when they were 39/6d represented a very serious decision and even more of an investment. They were played and played and they crackled with the spirit of the moment.

If there are enought punters I shall publish a list of the listeds. So far, I agree with everybody's choices, though I am not familiar with Broken English or Hounds of Love apart from the title tracks.

What sparkling and inspirational choices they are too.

Richard said...

Agree with Thud. I can remember getting a copy of the Beatles' Rubber Soul for Christmas in - it must have been - 1965. It was a real event. I have never felt that way about a CD, ever. Downloads even less.

Dave said...

Funny enough I never listened to Aqualung despite playing "This was" to death and going to see the Tull at the Marquee every week when they had a residency there.

I bought "Thick as a brick" and played it to death. It was a wonderful album, complete and flwoing effortlessly from song to song. We bought an eight track cartridge to play in the van and it just wasn't the same as it kept fading out as it switched tracks. Then it would fade back in again having "rewound" thirty seconds or so.
How to ruin a classic album. Cut it up into chunks.

I suppose "Tubular Bells" would count as an album that has to be heard in its entirity?

Richard said...

Tubular Bells 1 definitely, and 2 and 3 less so, but they all still benefit from being played right through, start to finish, in the right order. Even with albums which are more a collection of songs than a single concept, there is an order (burned into the brain by constant listening, perhaps) which needs to be there. The end of one song suggests the opening of the next, and the cursed 'shuffle' feature destroys that. I can only assume that iPods are designed for music which is so worthless and lacking in depth that juggling the order is the only way to maintain interest - a bit like a middle-aged couple trying out new positions to keep the spark alive.

And don't get me started on Classic FM, who seem to think that it is a good idea to play (say) the second movement of Bruch's first violin concerto on its own, without the preparatory first movement or the resolving third, because, well, it is such a pretty tune.